Horse racing is one of the oldest sports in the world. The first documented race was held in France in 1651. It resulted from a wager between two noblemen. Since then, horse races have spread to neighboring countries and the Middle East. Racing has evolved into a dazzling public spectacle with large fields of runners. However, many of the traditions and rules of horse racing have been retained.
In the early 1700s, race courses popped up on the plains of Long Island. Colonel Richard Nicolls laid out a two-mile course. He offered a silver cup to the best horse. Eligibility rules were based on a horse’s birthplace, age, and qualifications of its riders.
When the Civil War broke out, speed became the goal of equestrian competition. A number of countries began instituting Triple Crowns, or races in which horses have to complete three races. These include the Kentucky Derby, the Belmont Stakes, and the Preakness.
After the Civil War, the Jockey Club was formed, which sought to put an end to “doping” of races. New drugs were developed to help increase stamina and blood flow. Anti-inflammatory and growth hormone medications bled into the preparation of races.
In the late 19th century, governments entered wagering on racing with offtrack betting. This was beneficial to racing in England, France, and New Zealand. Offtrack betting also made racing in the United States more profitable. As a result, legal offtrack betting parlors grew in popularity.
Although the popularity of horse racing has declined in the 21st century, it is a sport with a rich history. During the reign of Louis XIV, racing based on gambling was popular. Some races are sponsored by wealthy individuals. Others, like the Durban July, are paid for by the stakes fees of the owners.
For many, horse racing is a great experience. Many are captivated by the sight of thousands of people flooding the grandstand to watch a race. There is a sense of camaraderie among fans and the crowds are often working class.
In addition to the classics, there are many other races across the globe. Races for young thoroughbreds are common in the U.S., and races for older horses are less frequent. One of the most notable exceptions is the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, a French race that admits horses that are more than three years old.
The Kentucky Derby is the most famous of the American classic races. Held annually in May, it attracts a crowd of 80,000 to watch the horses pass by. Most tickets are general admission, between $10 and $20. Tickets can be purchased at the racecourse and at various retail outlets. Several TV stations broadcast races from around the country. If you don’t have connections, you may be unable to find seats in the millionaires’ row.
A group of horse racing enthusiasts, known as Horseracing Wrongs, has been a vocal activist for the prevention of doping. Members are trained at a young age and are drugged. They are forced to break at an early age and spend most of their lives in solitary confinement in stalls.